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Three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s defeat against league-best Seattle

Seattle Sounders Raul Ruidiaz kicks the game-winning goal
Seattle Sounders Raul Ruidiaz scores the game-winning goal on a penalty kick against Real Salt Lake during the second half an MLS soccer game, Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Seattle.
Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP

Four days after its victory over Vancouver, Real Salt Lake faced what would arguably be its toughest test of the season as it traveled to Pacific Northwest to face Major League Soccer’s only remaining undefeated team, the Seattle Sounders.

Real Salt Lake responded with an Albert Rusnák penalty kick goal in the 79th minute after conceding the opening goal to Seattle early in the second half, but the Sounders were awarded a penalty kick of their own in the 89th minute that MLS leading goal-scorer, Raul Ruidiaz, converted to give Seattle the eventual victory over the Claret and Cobalt.

With the win, Seattle remained undefeated and improved to league-best 24 total points on the season. RSL was dealt its second loss of the season, but remains in the top seven of the Western Conference.

Here are three takeaways from the RSL defeat:

A controversial penalty for each team

In the 78th minute, after Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland appeared to trip Rubio Rubin on a challenge without getting the ball, referee Ted Unkel pointed to the spot and awarded RSL an opportunity to tie the game at one apiece and Rusnák converted. The supporters at Lumen Field in Seattle unleashed a roar of disapproval after the decision was upheld by VAR.

But nearly 10 minutes later, the ball appeared to brush the left arm of Anderson Julio as he was defending within RSL’s penalty area and, once again, Unkel pointed to the spot. When Unkel’s call was upheld by VAR, Ruidiaz converted the game-winning penalty kick as a result of the decision.

Both penalties appeared to be fairly harsh decisions, but the handball call on Julio was especially difficult to swallow after RSL competed eye-to-eye in the second half with the best side in Major League Soccer.

“I think we fought hard the whole game, we were tied with five or six minutes to go, and to give up a goal like that—especially that way—it’s tough, it’s gutting,” Rubin said. “We’ve just got to throw this game behind us and move on because Saturday’s (game) is coming up fast.”

Bobby Wood makes his long anticipated debut

After months of anticipation, offseason acquisition Bobby Wood finally saw the field in an RSL uniform for his official MLS debut after playing for Hamburg in the German Bundesliga.

Searching for the equalizing goal, Wood was subbed on in the 67th minute to play alongside Rubin, forming an attacking line that featured two strikers, something that hasn’t been seen at the club for many years.

Head coach Freddy Juarez was pleased with what he saw from Wood in his first minutes as an RSL player.

“He’s another aggressive player that wants to score goals and win games,” Juarez said. “We saw quick leadership, you quickly saw him talking to the guys, as new as he is to the team, he wanted to help the team win the game so that was very important.”

The captain gets his first goal of the year

With the penalty-kick goal in the 79th, newly-appointed captain Albert Rusnák tallied his first goal of the season. The goal came one game after Rusnák recorded his first assist of the season.

With eight games completed, Real Salt Lake will hope that Rusnák’s results over the past two games will get the ball rolling after the midfielder’s slow start to the season.

Rusnák will look to carry his momentum into RSL’s quick, 3-day turnaround matchup against Houston on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.